Hawksbill turtles are listed as Critically endangered under the IUCN red list due to illegal poaching, loss or degradation of nesting habitat and by-catch from the fishing industry. The Republic of Seychelles holds one of the world’s largest populations of Hawksbills and Cousin Island is considered to be the single most important nesting site for this species in the Western Indian Ocean. The population has been monitored since the 1970’s and has one of the longest running data sets for this species worldwide.
The Hawksbill nesting season begins in September and will last up until March however the peak nesting activity occurs from November to January. During this period on Cousin thousands of emergences are made by the breeding females to lay their eggs and this is when we are able to monitor them closely. Each year a team of volunteers led by the Science Officer undertake the huge task of recording each emergence that is made and tagging new turtles. The type of nesting activity, the track and shell measurements, the tag numbers, the position and time of laying are all recorded. This is added each year to the long-term data set that provides important information of population trends. Since the Island became a reserve the nesting population has increased 8-fold and Cousin is seen as a global conservation success story for the Hawksbill turtle.
For information on volunteering on this project please see the Get Involved page.